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Neither as literary as Josiah Bunting III's Ulysses S. Grant (2004) nor as utterly revelatory as Charles W. Calhoun's Benjamin Harrison (2005), Hart's presentation of the first genuinely forgotten president is just as absorbingly eye-opening. Now known only for the "doctrine" bearing his name, Monroe (1758-1831) was a career soldier, diplomat, and politician. A Jefferson-Madison protege, he differed with them on two crucial matters: a standing military and a national bank. He shared their enthusiasm for westward expansion but realized that a permanent military was needed to defend development against major imperial powers, and he eventually budgeted to build it. To prevent government bankruptcy from real crises, such as the War of 1812 (in which he participated in the battle for Baltimore), he advocated a national bank. So doing, he increased central government authority and in the Monroe Doctrine flexed its muscles. Moreover, although he was a southerner, he signed the Missouri Compromise that staved off secession for 40 years. He was arguably a greater president than either of his mentors. Ray Olson
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James Monroe is remembered today primarily for two things: for being the last of the Virginia Dynastyfollowing George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madisonand for issuing the Monroe Doctrine, his statement of principles in 1823 that the western hemisphere was to be considered closed to European intervention. But Gary Hart sees Monroe as a president ahead of his time, whose priorities and accomplishments in establishing Americas national security have a great deal in common with chief executives of our own time. Unlike his predecessors Jefferson and Madison, Monroe was at his core a military man. He joined the Continental Army at the age of seventeen and served with distinction in many pivotal battles. (He is prominently featured at Washingtons side in the iconic painting Washington Crossing the Delaware.) And throughout his career as a senator, governor, ambassador, secretary of state, secretary of war, and president, he never lost sight of the fact that without secure borders and friendly relations with neighbors, the American people could never be truly safe in their independence. As president he embarked on an ambitious series of treaties, annexations, and military confrontations that would secure Americas homeland against foreign attack for nearly two hundred years. Hart details the accomplishments and priorities of this forward-looking president, whose security concerns clearly echo those we face in our time.
About the Author
Gary Hart represented Colorado in the U.S. Senate from 1975 to 1987. He is the author of fourteen books, and has taught at Yale, the University of California, and Oxford University, where he earned a doctor of philosophy degree in politics. He was co-chair of the U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century
and is currently senior counsel to the multinational law firm Coudert Brothers. He resides with his family in Kittredge, Colorado.
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